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Cognitive Studies

Summary of Major

The Cognitive Studies major is for students who wish to become active inquirers into the processes by which people learn to think, solve problems, and reason. It is broader in focus than is a traditional psychology major. This fact is reflected in the title of the Intro course: "Minds, Brains, Contexts, and Cultures." The 33-hour major encourages the development of flexible reasoning and an awareness of how people make decisions, skills that are useful in a wide variety of careers.

The Cognitive Studies major provides excellent preparation for graduate study in the social and behavioral sciences as well as areas -such as medicine and law -that place importance on inquiry and thinking. The curriculum is planned to ensure that students receive a strong background in both science and the liberal arts, with an emphasis on problem solving and complex decision-making.

Courses in the core curriculum focus on various aspects of human cognition, including communication, cognitive development, basic cognitive processes, applications of theories of knowledge, and sociocultural aspects of learning. Students are encouraged to consult their advisers about pursuing a second major or developing an area of concentration that is consistent with their career plans.

Recently Offered Courses

Minds, Brains, Contexts, and Cultures; Music and Cognition; Psychology of Thinking; Creativity; Cognitive Aspects of Human Development; Social and Emotional Context of Cognition; Psychology and Language; Social and Personality Development; Statistical Analysis; Experimental Research Methods; Psychology and Film.

Honors Program

The Honors Program in Cognitive Studies offers qualified majors the opportunity to conduct individual research projects in collaboration with faculty members. This research experience culminates in the writing and public presentation of a senior thesis. Students who major in Cognitive Studies are eligible to apply for the Honors Program at the end of their sophomore year if they have an overall grade point average of at least 3.2 and a 3.2 in Cognitive Studies courses. Students who complete the program successfully and who have a final grade point average of at least 3.2 will receive Honors or Highest Honors in Cognitive Studies. The program is highly appropriate for those intending to do graduate work.

Undergraduate Research

Students have the opportunity to work directly with faculty to have a hands-on experience with research. Through working in research labs, students are able to learn about conducting research, data analysis and scientific writing.

Cognitive Studies students make extensive use of computer technology and modern brain imaging neuroscience methods to conduct research and design cutting-edge learning opportunities for others. Ongoing experiments allow students to become actively involved in research. Recent graduates have been able to use their research conducted in the Cognitive Studies program as the foundation for graduate work.

After Vanderbilt

Cognitive Studies graduates are well prepared to pursue graduate studies as well as enter the job market because they have learned to generate sound new ideas and potential solutions to complex problems. They also pursue graduate studies in management, medicine and law, as well as careers in the social and behavioral sciences, government, human resources, and education - all areas where critical, original thinking is needed.

Yuyue Sun (2016): Masters of Education at Harvard University

Junyi Chu (2015): PhD program at MIT in Cognitive Sciences

Charlotte Duncan (2015): Masters at Harvard University and now is a Producer at Curriculum Associates in Los Angeles


While the faculty shares common interests in psychological processes and their development, specific interests and expertise are diverse. Some are committed to increasing our understanding of basic psychological processes, whereas others emphasize implications for clinical, social, and educational issues. Faculty are specifically involved in research focusing on human perception, cognition, and neuroscience.


Leigh Wadsworth
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Psychology and Human Development
Peabody College 0552
230 Appleton Place
Nashville, TN  37203-5701
(615) 322-5566

Cognitive Studies Website